Ethnic Diversity in Psychology: Examples & Impact

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As someone who is interested in psychology as a field, you might be wondering about the different roles ethnic diversity can play. This lesson discusses examples and impacts of ethnic diversity in psychology.

Why Ethnic Diversity Matters

As a Vietnamese American working in the field of psychology, Kathie is really interested in the role of ethnic diversity, or the presence of people from a variety of cultural and national backgrounds within the field.

Kathie understands that psychology has historically been defined in terms of Eurocentric norms, and this is problematic. After all, her patient population and colleagues are very diverse, and she wants her field and understandings within it to reflect this diversity.

Kathie knows that ethnicity can have a profound impact on how people feel and see themselves. She sets about helping others understand the role of ethnic diversity in psychology.

Defining Ethnic Diversity

First, Kathie thinks it is important to understand exactly what ethnic diversity is. Ethnicity is identity related to a specific cultural or national tradition. Ethnic diversity, then, refers to the presence of different ethnic backgrounds or identities.

In the United States, many people identify with more than one ethnic group, and they might experience ethnic diversity within their own families. This, too, can influence their psychological makeup and well-being in exciting as well as challenging ways.

Ethnic diversity can influence people by:

  • Affecting their value systems
  • Governing their traditions and religious beliefs
  • Causing conflicts with others
  • Impacting their perspectives on childrearing and education

Kathie thinks that understanding ethnic diversity is obviously a crucial part of being an accepting and up-to-date psychologist.

Examples of Ethnic Diversity

Right now, Kathie is thinking of ethnic diversity as it relates to two of her patients.

Social Cohesiveness

One patient has recently moved to Kathie's city from California. This patient is Korean American and has always experienced a great deal of social cohesion, or community connectedness, within Korean communities.

Kathie's city is less diverse than where the patient is from, and the patient is feeling very isolated. She feels the lack of social cohesiveness, and it feels to her like everyone here is just out for themselves. Kathie wants to help this patient understand how to connect with others in spite of what might be really important cultural and ethnic differences. She knows that it is possible to find cohesiveness outside of one's own ethnic group, but that this can also be challenging.


Kathie has another patient who identifies ethnically as Jewish. This patient often feels excluded around Christmas time, when Christmas seems to take over in terms of decorations and activities. The lack of inclusiveness, or sense of belonging, affects her psychological and social well being. Kathie wants to help her learn to speak up for herself and take pride in her ethnic identity while also connecting meaningfully with others.

Impact of Ethnic Diversity

Kathie can see many ways that ethnic diversity can influence individual psychology, as well as the field of psychology overall.

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